Sunday, May 19, 2024
spot_img

From Harry Kane goals to defensive errors, Bayern Munich deliver their season in microcosm vs. Real Madrid

When you’re a power as preeminent as Bayern Munich, other teams don’t just wrestle silverware from your grasp. They have to be given a helping hand. Thomas Tuchel will no doubt fear that is just what his players did on Tuesday night, their season writ in microcosm as so much control and precision was undone by sloppiness in both penalty areas.

Heading to the Santiago Bernabeu with the tie all square at 2-2, Bayern Munich are a long way from out of the Champions League. In spite of the permacrisis since Bayer Leverkusen pulled clear in the Bundesliga, this is an extremely good football team. At their best,t Bayern Munich 2023-24 finally played like a team with the expected goal difference of Bayern Munich 2023-24, the advanced metrics envy of Europe even if they might have no silverware to show for it.

The opening 20 minutes were a masterclass of Tuchel football, the inexorable push towards the opposition penalty area that ends with Leroy Sane or Jamal Musiala charging along the Real Madrid byline, three players queuing up for the cutback to crown a sweeping move. The field was progressively tilting in Bayern’s direction, Harry Kane dropping deep to overload the midfield, Thomas Muller ghosting into the space he vacated. Sane should have scored, Musiala ought to have delivered a better final ball on more than one occasion. However, when you have had nine penalty box touches in the first nine minutes when Madrid are yet to even sniff out your penalty area, you are entitled to think that the trajectory of the game is heading in only one direction.

Even, perhaps, when your opponents have the plot armor to deflect all the blows reigning down on them, to find themselves thrust into the ascendancy because that is simply what happens to Real Madrid. There may have been magic in Toni Kroos’ through ball, Vinicius Junior’s burst and precise finish, but it was only possible because Min-jae Kim drifted so far away from the rest of his defensive line. 

By the final whistle, the statistics painted a mostly even game but only because Bayern made it so. Both sides might have conceded penalties but Musiala got one for his side through little more than his own brilliance. Before that, there was nothing really that anyone could do about Sane’s thunderbolt, least of all Andriy Lunin, who might well have found himself one or two digits short if he had gotten a glove down to his near post quickly enough.

Tuchel’s adjustments had paid off. Having switched flanks after the interval, both Sane and Musiala had turned threat into output. Kane, meanwhile, had hit the balance between false nine and peripheral attacker that evaded him after Madrid’s opener. The control was coming back, Kane and his former Tottenham teammate Eric Dier might have added to the lead on the hour. 

Then came another Kim error, the sort to vindicate the presence of Spurs benchwarmer Dier in the XI ahead of the nearly $100 million of center backs that Tuchel has been naming on his bench of late. Bayern must win at the Santiago Bernabeu, a ground where their last seven visits have brought one draw and six defeats, and at the very least hold Madrid at bay. It need not be that difficult.

Much as it didn’t have to be as hard as Bayern made it for themselves when they rolled into Leverkusen in February, when they insisted on giving hope to ordinary opponents like Lazio and Manchester United on their way to this semifinal, when they so sloppily stopped defending their left flank in the closing minutes against Saarbrucken. Over the course of a season, these moments can be offset by another Kane goal or the magic of Musiala. Come April and May, if it is not already too late, one error can be costly.

Perhaps Tuchel is not blameless for this. Bayern might put up the xG of great entertainers but there is a predilection towards control in everything their coach does. Given the longstanding propensity of his defenders for individual errors and the absence of the ball-winning midfielder that seemed to drive Tuchel doolally, perhaps the best form of defense is a more forceful attack.

There are only eight days to find out. For all the plans and adjustments that Bayern got right, they could not help but make life harder for themselves. Do so again in the Bernabeu and the inevitable outcome will be a first trophyless season in 12 years.

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.